6 Takeaways for Effective Selling (Yes, Selling)

We are all salespeople, whether we like it or not, says author and consultant Dan Pink

In the information age, it's no longer "buyer beware" but "seller beware." In the information age, it's no longer "buyer beware" but "seller beware."

Business consultant and former vice-presidential speechwriter Dan Pink took the stage at FPA Experience 2013 on Saturday afternoon in Orlando to defend salesman and selling. Pink, author of To Sell is Human, began by noting three ingredients in any effective presentation.

“They are brevity, levity and repetition; let me say that one more time,” he said to laughter. “I’m going to leave you with two insights and six takeaways.”

The first insight, he explained, is that “like it or not, we’re all in sales.”

“During the dot-com bubble, management consultants said salespeople would be ‘disintermediated;’ that’s consultant speak for removing them from the interaction because they’re gumming up the works. In 2000, about one in nine people in the labor force were in sales. Guess what? In 2013, that number is still one in nine — so much for that.”

That number holds true pretty much around the globe, he added, noting that in the EU it’s about 13% and in Japan it is one in eight.

“All the rest that aren’t in sales are in sales,” he argued. “It’s just not with a cash register and money changing hands. Sales is convincing someone to give up something they value in exchange for something you are offering; it could be their commitment, zeal time, or anything else. You are trying to move someone to take action, so the definition it’s broader than simply producers and consumers.”

When people are informed they’re in sales even if they don’t realize it, they have one of two reactions: “The first is they like it, the second is ‘or not.’”

Noting a survey he conducted on the perception of salespeople among the public, he noted that of the top 25 most popular answers, 20 were negative and only five were positive or could be considered positive.

“That’s astonishing. In no other profession, like medicine or accounting, do you find that? Yet we’re all involved in selling to some degree.”

The negative perception, he said, is outdated. It stemmed from the seller having an information advantage over the buyer, which often led to the latter’s abuse and was the origin of the phrase “buyer beware.” Announcing his second insight, he said technology has rendered the advantage moot, and it has moved from an asymmetrical sales environment to information parity.

“It’s now ‘seller beware;’ if you try and rip someone off, they’ll find out and they have the resources to tell everyone,” he said.  “’Seller beware’ is different in kind rather than degree from ‘buyer beware.’”

He found it shocking that elite business schools do not teach sales, but rather sales management. Referencing Alec Baldwin’s character in “Glengarry Glen Ross,” he said ABC no longer stands for “Always be closing.”

“Today, I would argue that the A stands for attachment, meaning effective ‘perspective taking’ can get you out of your own head to see an issue from someone else’s point of view in order to find common ground. The B stands for buoyancy; how does one stay afloat in an ocean of rejection and how do you prepare for, and handle, encounters with other? The last, C, stands for clarity; we are awash in information. The advantage of getting it early doesn’t apply anymore. Now it’s all about how well you contextualize it for others. It’s not about solving existing problems; it’s about identifying hidden problems they didn’t know they had.”

He added that power leads people to accept their vantage point over others, noting that high-powered people in organizations are especially bad at it, whereas low-powered people are good at it because it is a key to their survival.

He then concluded with his six takeaways for effective selling.

1. Increase you effectiveness by briefly reducing your feelings of power.

2. Use your head as much as your heart. Although clients want emotional intelligence from their advisor, they also want solid analytical skills.

3. Negotiators who mimicked opponents' mannerisms were more likely to create a deal that benefited both parties. He noted waitresses that repeated an order back to a customer word-for-word received 70% more in tips that those that did not.

4. Be an “ambivert.” An ambivert is someone who is not an extreme introvert or extrovert, rather somewhere in between. They know when to push someone and when to hold back and when to talk and when to listen.

5. Questions (often) beat statements when the facts are on your side. They allow the client to reach your conclusion on his own.

6. Changing minds matters less than giving someone an easy way to take action. For instance, auto-enrollment has led to a “skyrocketing increase” in 401(k) contributions.

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